Nanaimo Hatchery Overview
Click here for a hatchery overview article written in 2000
The Nanaimo River Hatchery started in 1978 and is one of nineteen hatcheries in BC that are part of the Community Economic Development Program (CEDP). Currently, there are for full time staff, with the addition of one part time in the fall. Hatchery is located on Harmac mill land who have been great supporters of the project. The non-profit Nanaimo River Stewardship Society (NRSS) was formed in 2002 and took over as the contract holder with DFO. The NRSS consists of 8 directors from the local community.
State of DFO Funding of the Nanaimo Hatchery
DFO has not increased funding to the hatchery since 1995, notwithstanding rising operating costs, or inflation over the years. The NRSS has no other choice but to count on the community for support through fundraisers and donations. As costs increase DFO recommends cutting production or education programs to be able to work within the budget.
Fundraising for the Nanaimo Hatchery
Spawning Day Event November 6, 2022
The hatchery relies heavily on fundraising. Annually, on the first Sunday in November, the hatchery hosts Spawning Day. Entry is by donation. With your donation you will receive a ballot to enter a draw to win your choice of a prize, including a fishing charter with Coastal Blue Adventures (Spawning Day Facebook Page here).
Visitors can see chum spawn, take part in an eggtake, observe a salmon dissection, release a coho, as well as many other fun and interactive community displays that are fun for the whole family. Even enjoy a delicious salmon burger from the Nanaimo Fish and Game club.
Due to COVID the fundraiser had had to be cancelled in 2020, and 2021. This has put a big dent in fundraising income for the past couple of years. As a part of Spawning Day, we will also have a used fishing gear garage sale. Lots of great items have been donated. We are also interested in your donations of gear. We can receive them up until Saturday November 5th, 2022 afternoon. Items can be dropped off at the Hatchery, or the Harbour Chandler.
Our fundraisers help us pay for our under funded programs. Like stated before, DFO has not increased our budget in 20+ years. During annual contract talks we are told to cut programs to stay within budget, with our spring Life in H2O education program being the first suggested cut. We want to keep these programs going for the kids.
Nanaimo Hatchery Annual Production Egg Target
Every fall staff capture adult brood stock by seine and gill net and transport the salmon to the hatchery by truck where they “ripen” up until ready to be spawned. Eggs are taken and fertilized with milt, and placed in incubators until the fry are ready to eat food. Each species is reared and fed for a certain amount of time and release in different locations.
With the help of volunteers staff, the adipose fins of 80,000 coho smolt (yearling) are clipped, annually. DFO, to this date, has not funded clipping of Chinook adipose fins though the board and staff (and and angling communities) are in favour of mass clipping.
Nanaimo’s Pink Salmon
In the early 2000’s the hatchery took on a project to re-introduce a once large pink salmon run to the Nanaimo and Haslam Rivers. Received a jumpstart from the Quinsam River and have seen returns of up to 60,000. Fry are released from netpen locations from Departure Bay to Protection island. Late August has seen good shore fishing in Departure Bay and the mouth of the Millstone River for these pinks before most of them head back to the Nanaimo River to spawn. This has been a successful project and would not have been possible without community participation and funding.
Hatchery and Salmon Education
The Nanaimo River Hatchery is involved heavily in education. The hatchery holds a 3-week program in the fall called “Gently Down the Stream”. Elementary students come to the hatchery, and help with a chum salmon eggtake, observe a salmon dissection, and observe chum salmon spawning in the creek near the hatchery.
In the spring, the hatchery hosts a 3-week program called “Life in H2O” where students learn about the ocean food web and how salmon fit in, observe and identify aquatic insects and release a coho salmon into the wild. Each program welcomes up to 1,500 students to the hatchery. The hatchery also supplies coho eggs to classroom incubation projects where students get to observe the development of salmon from egg to fry. Hatchery staff also set up information booths at various events in the community. We also take on practicum students from Vancouver Island University Fisheries and Aquaculture program.
Hatchery staff perform stock assessment for DFO by conducting snorkel salmon counts from June to November. Staff also aid in fry assessment, fry salvaging, habitat restoration and pretty much any project associated with the Nanaimo River.
Recently, Nanaimo River spring run Chinook returns have been recognized as very low, and a possible Species at Risk Act (SARA) listing. Staff are heavily involved in ongoing meetings and workshops to narrow down the risks to the stock from adults returning to spawning habitat, possible egg to fry incubation issues, fry outmigration and estuary rearing.
Please contact me (Brian Banks, Manager Nanaimo River Hatchery) if you have any donations or questions at [email protected] or 250-245-7780.